‘Running With The Red Bulls’
By Sean Hartnett
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What time is it?  It’s Bouna Time!  Red Bulls’ head coach Hans Backe must recall Senegalese shot-stopper Bouna Coundoul to into the starting eleven to provide a temporary goalkeeping fix.  Number one keeper Greg Sutton’s confidence and command of his area has slipped to the point that Backe will be forced to pull the plug on the Canadian.

Coundoul isn’t far removed from the fine form of a season ago that allowed him to achieve a career best goal against average of 1.04.  He was an ever-present throughout the Red Bulls’ 2010 campaign but appearances in 2011 have been few and far between for the former Martin L. King Jr. High School standout.  Coundoul has been relegated to the bench since a disastrous start on May 15th against Chivas USA where he surrendered three goals including one that bizarrely squeaked through his legs.

Over the recent stretch of games, Sutton has virtually played his way out of the starting keeper role.  He appears to have lost the self-assured mentality that is required to be competent at his position.  The evidence presented over the past two away matches against the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders leave Backe little choice but to make the switch back to Coundoul.

On Thursday night in Seattle, Sutton looked like a shattered figure.  It would be harsh to blame him for the opening goal which was wonderfully worked by Erik Friberg as he shook Dane Richards and curled in a beautiful shot.  If anyone was it blame, it was Stephen Keel who didn’t step up with enough authority as Sutton was screened.  The following goal that came a minute later was completely Sutton’s fault.  An obstruction on him by Fredy Montero should have been spotted by the referee but Sutton seemed more focused on appealing for the call than keeping his focus.

I have some sympathy for Sutton as New York’s set piece defending has been pitiful of late but he still must be replaced.  13 of the last 18 goals conceded by the Red Bulls have come through opponent set piece opportunities.  The return of first choice central defensive pairing Rafael Marquez and Tim Ream couldn’t come sooner as their presence is needed to bring stability to these situations.  The duo will miss out on Sunday’s match against the Chicago Fire but will return from the Gold Cup Final in time for the Red Bulls’ following league match in San Jose on July 2nd.

Even without the suspended Thierry Henry, ailing Luke Rodgers unavailable Juan Agudelo, the Red Bulls found a way back into the match.  A makeshift forward paring of Richards and Dwayne De Rosario succeeded in their place by threatening Seattle keeper Kasey Keller.  You couldn’t fault the Red Bull attack as they held up their end of the bargain by responding to even the match at 2-2 through goals from Richards and Jan Gunnar Solli’s deflected effort.

Possibly still affected by earlier events, Sutton got worse as the night went on and surrendered two goals to Roger Levesque.  The first could be equally attributed to poor set piece marking and Sutton’s positioning but the second was a shocker as he looked like a deer in the headlights on a simple back-pass allowing Levesque to march in.  This killed any chance of a Red Bull comeback as they trailed 4-2 with only twelve minutes remaining.

Coundoul certainly has the backing of the supporters as message board fanatics agree that it’s time for him return between the sticks.  Whereas the aging Sutton struggles with his mobility, Coundoul is an acrobatic figure who seems to inspire confidence in his back four.  He might not be the long-term answer as the Red Bulls could search for an upgrade in net once the July transfer window opens in 22 days.

At least for now, Backe would be best off giving Coundoul an audition to see if he can reproduce his stunning displays of a season ago.  For the moment, it should be ‘Bouna Time’ once again.

Is Bouna the replacement the Red Bulls require or should Backe continue persevere with Sutton? If so, do have confidence that Bouna can reclaim the starting role or should the Red Bulls search for an upgrade in the transfer market?  Sound off below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.

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